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Branding You: Driving Your Career By Crafting A Personal Brand

Whether you are preparing yourself for the beginning of your professional career or you are already well established, creating a personal brand for yourself will help you to be seen as a relevant and unique professional. Check out these tips for how you can make sure you are developing your own personal brand:

1. Look the part.

It may seem unfair, but people tend to make snap judgments based on how you look. Clothes are an important social signal about who you are and how you fit in the world. Use this to your advantage by dressing for the social impression you want to make. Regardless of the dress code within the industry you are working, you will want to appear pulled together, neat and well groomed.

2. Your online appearance counts as much as your in-person appearance.

Be mindful of how you’re presenting yourself on social media by first being careful of what you put online, and secondly by making sure that you choose the right privacy settings so that only your connections and your friends see certain things. Not everything you do needs to be public. Employers and potential clients frequently review social media and searches to find out more about you. Make sure you are represented in a way that says I am a professional and am serious about my image.

3. Perception is reality.

People think communication is about what you say, but communication is really a two-way street. People often hear and see us through their own personal filters, experiences and assumptions. Remember, perception is reality and intentions can easily get lost in that exchange. Are you being perceived in a way that truly represents what you are trying to communicate? If you are uncertain, ask someone you trust to give you honest, constructive feedback on how you’re presenting yourself and make any necessary adjustments.

4. Do your homework before you meet people.

Part of being credible is being prepared for your meetings. Look up the people you are going to meet on LinkedIn or other social media, do research on their company, brush up a bit on the topic of the meeting, and anticipate what questions might come up. Being prepared demonstrates you are forward thinking and on top of your game.

5. Always be ready.

You never know when that person that you meet at a barbeque or at a rugby match may turn out to be an important connection at some point in your career. To me, what really makes the biggest first impression is eye contact and whether or not you smile. Smiling and maintaining good eye contact seem to resonate with people more than what somebody’s wearing, how well they shake hands, or even what they say. Be ready at all times so you can capture the moment when it arises.

6. Have your “story” ready for those impromptu introductions.

Have a quick summary of what you do, a sentence or so, with a second sentence that gets more specific for when you are in situations where that is needed. The focus should be on how you help people. Think of how you would complete this sentence: “I help people [accomplish this] by [thing that you do].”

7. Be an outstanding listener.

Very often when we meet someone, we are so concerned with what we are going to say that we fail to listen to what they are telling us both verbally and nonverbally. People love to talk about themselves. Ask questions, and more importantly, listen to their answers. If you listen carefully you may find that you are able to connect at a deeper level. This can make or break your networking skills. Listen first, speak second.

8. Be with the person you’re with. Put the phone away.

Make a very powerful statement and put away the phone and really concentrate on the conversation with the person in front of you. Simply be present with where you are. Avoid falling into the trap of feeling that you must respond immediately to any text or email; everything in its own time. Get into the habit of unplugging when you are with someone.

9. Follow through on your commitments.

One of the best ways to set you apart from anyone else is to follow through on your commitments. First impressions are important, but failing to follow-up on your commitments can be a deal-killer. If you can’t fulfill a commitment, make the effort to call and let the person know. Sometimes that can help salvage a relationship. When you follow through on your commitments you are showing that you are someone who honors their word. This can be one of the most powerful traits to branding yourself.

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